By Raffique Shah
October 2, 2011
I HAVE always seen sexual assault of a woman as the most heinous crime a man could commit. There are other gruesome criminal acts, of course, such as murder by multiple chop-wounds, kidnapping and torturing victims, and brutal acts of violence against children and geriatrics who cannot defend themselves. Some may argue that all crimes in which the victims suffer physical abuse can be deemed heinous.
It is rape, however, that sparks outrage, as happened following the recent incident in Chaguanas. Even before anyone was arrested for the cruel acts against a mother and daughter, the public was demanding vengeance, not justice. Now that some very young men are before the courts charged with that crime, the horror of what happened is compounded by the baby-faces of the accused. People cannot believe these boys committed such dastardly acts of cruelty. In due course, the courts will decide whether they are guilty or innocent.
Ever since I came of sexual age, I wondered how a man could rape a woman. In the intervening years, I have known many a rapist—serial offenders, buggers who target boys, jacket-and-tie plunderers who use their high offices or wealth to force themselves on women, and ordinary men who just see nothing wrong in “stealing” sex.
Sex is supposed to be a joyful experience, consensual, mutually satisfying to both persons involved. How can any man derive pleasure from copulating with a woman he must first subdue or otherwise conquer, in which the victim is unwilling, or worse, resisting or crying her heart out?
The focus today is on the highly publicised Chaguanas case. I am sure that on that very day, dozens more similar violations of women or boys took place elsewhere in this country. Rape is an everyday crime across the world, not just Trinidad and Tobago. How we work to reduce its prevalence is a question I leave to the experts in the field.
I shall take readers into the minds and lives of two serial rapists I encountered—where else?—in prison. Curiously, they both carried the same first name, and both came from deep-south Trinidad. There the similarities ended. One was a heaving giant, the other a gnat. The giant was physically menacing whereas the gnat’s demeanour was disarming.
Most prisoners treat rapists with contempt: yes, many murderers, robbers and other very violent men see themselves as being far superior to rapists. As a consequence, child-rapists or those who violate young boys or girls, or older women, are often gang-raped in prison, as a form of peer-punishment. It happened when I was in prison 40 years ago, and I would be surprised if that code has since changed.
In the cases I refer to, the gnat fooled the mutineers. We, too, wanted nothing to do with rapists or those who had committed heinous crimes (like the Abdul Malik gang), even as we assisted other prisoners who were receptive to reform. The gnat, like the giant, was a “trusted prisoner”, which meant he could move quite freely across the prison. He benefitted from our generosity with food and won our sympathy.
It was on the night before he was released that someone looked at the records book and learned that he was a rapist. It was too late for us to act on that information, although it turned out otherwise. Within 48 hours, news broke that he had raped and buggered a woman near his hometown. The police arrested him and he was charged. He escaped custody—and proceeded to bugger a little boy! Two or three rapes later, he was finally apprehended, and he returned to prison shortly thereafter.
Of course, he stayed far from us. He would end up with a stiff jail sentence. Many years later, he turned up at my work place a shadow of himself, seeking help. I gave him a few dollars, but warned him against checking me for any further help.
The giant was very boastful. He attacked couples and often related his exploits—what he did to the woman, what he made the man do—to salivating prisoners. One day, he was carrying on a session as I took my afternoon run (40-60 times around a prison yard ‘ent easy!). I felt nauseated as I picked up bits of what he said. I also felt compelled to intervene.
When I finished my run, I walked up to the group, cussed up his backside, and told him if ever I heard him carry on like that again, I would beat him to a pulp. Yes, I was smaller in stature. But I was fit, strong and had the heart of a lion. He eventually backed off and complied…and I would leave him in prison when I won my freedom.
Two years or so later, a friend and I decided to take a late afternoon dip in what is now the Pt Lisas Port area. When we got there, I spotted the giant sitting on the old jetty. Clearly, he was waiting to pounce on unsuspecting lovers who sometimes used that bay area.
As we walked towards him menacingly, he greeted me. I ignored it and asked what he was doing there. Relaxing, he said. Out, I ordered. Free country, he said. Free cutarse, too, I said, as we advanced on him. He took flight. My friend and I may have saved some hapless couple from harm.
I hate rapists. Hated them when I was a boy. Detest them now that I am an old geezer. Nuff said.